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A Butterfly Is Not A Caterpillar With Wings

William Wen
4 min readNov 20, 2022

I’m a big fan of Tony Seba (@tonyseba), who has been writing and speaking about the clean energy revolution for over a decade. His talk in 2014 regarding disruption and declining cost curves helped me build conviction for Tesla as the “it” company. My conviction in Tesla is still as strong as ever, holding our shares through the ups and (mostly) downs in 2022.

Recently Tony Seba published a multi part series on YouTube, where once again, he talks about disruption in electric vehicles, transport, energy, and food. While he reused some of the same materials from the past, he added a new slide to really bring the point home.

A Butterfly Is Not A Caterpillar With Wings

What does it mean? A business disruption isn’t just making the previous business a little better. The business or company undergoes a transformation to become something entirely new and different.

Those that look at companies going through change via conventional lenses, often misunderstand and see the caterpillar. By anticipating what a company could become, rather than its shape now, one can imagine the butterfly and watch the metamorphosis take shape.

A Faster Horse

Is a car a faster horse? Well, in a way, yes. But, the automobile has brought about the largest transformation in American industry and culture. Auto makers and oil/gas companies are some of the largest companies in the world. Interstate highways provided unprecedented freedom of travel to millions of people and commerce.

An automobile isn’t just a faster horse, it’s an entire new ecosystem that generated multiple orders of magnitude of future economic output.

The iPhone

Believe it or not, when the iPhone first came out, many didn’t understand the power of an internet connected computer in your pocket. The critics thought it was Apple’s version of the Blackberry. Except, it was too expensive and lacked a physical…

William Wen

25 years in tech | 13 years @ Google | 9+ years Tesla Investor | |